Thursday, 25 August 2011

Where the jasmine revolution could blossom next?

On the Economist website is available  "The Shoe-Thrower's index". Apart from the non-academic name, this index is very useful to measure the level of instability in the Arabic countries. This statistical tool is based on some indicators such as the level of corruption, the freedom of press, the democracy ranking and the years on power of their leaders. The
Since the first demonstrations occuring in Tunisia in November, then the protests spred in various countries, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Libya, Jordan and Egypt. In particular, the massive demonstrations forced Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt  to step down and favoured in Libya the composition of the National Transitional Council, which is overthrowing Gaddafi with the help of the Western countries.

In Jordan and Morocco, the young monarchs started to adopt a series of reforms. The situation is very difficult in Syria and Yemen.
Tahir square, Cairo - Egypt
Demonstration in Avenue Habib
Bourguiba, Tunis - Tunisia
Demonstration in Tobruk - Libya

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Food security crisis in the Horn of Africa - A map from WFP helps to monitor the distribution of food in more affected areas

Drought, conflict, and rising food prices are affecting more than 13 million people in the Horn of Africa. On 20 July, famine conditions were declared in several southern regions of Somalia. The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) forecasts that famine conditions will spread if humanitarian assistance does not increase. In response, WFP is planning to feed over 11.5 million people, including 3.7 million people in Somalia, 3.7 million in Ethiopia, and 2.7 million in Kenya.
WFP to monitor the distribution of food in Somalia and control which areas within the country are most in need of assistance has developed the following map. The tool offers a bird’s-eye view of the food security situation in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia. It also lists the locations of WFP distribution centers and identifies areas with limited humanitarian access which are more in need of assistance. The map uses data from the WFP, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Famine Early Warning System Network, among other sources.

Monday, 22 August 2011

When time flies - Almost one year ago Gaddafi was setting up his Berber Tent in villa Pamphili in Rome and now is surrounded in his compound

Gaddafi and Berlusconi
On 30 August 2010, Colonel Gaddafi was visiting Rome in occasion of the Italian-Libyan Friendship Day , a celebration organized by the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to reinforce the political and economic interests between the two countries.
Actually, around one year later according to rumours, only one week before the commemoration of the 42th anniversary of his rise to power, Gaddafi  is surrounded in his compound or has taken refuge in the neighbour Tunisia.
The protests, started in February in the wake of the demonstrations in Egypt and  Tunisia. These were, at the beginning, brutally stopped by the Colonel with the use of mercenary forces from Mali and Chad but after a period of uncertainty, the newborn National Transitional Council, representing the opponents, with the military support of the Western forces was able to face and defeat the forces loyal to Gaddafi. After months of fights, the rebels arrived yersterday night to Tripoli. Heavy fighting are reported around Libyan leader Col. Gaddafi's compound as rebels say government forces still control up to a fifth of Tripoli. Despite this, the end of the regime seems very close.
Flag of the Kingdom of Libya 
and the National Transitional Council

Friday, 19 August 2011

Syrian revolution faces the brutal reaction of the regime and is partially supported by the international community through economic sanctions

Since 1963 the Arab Socialist Baath Party seized power in a 1963 coup, transforming Syria into a one-party state governed under emergency law. The power shifted from the party’s civilian ideologues to army officers, most of whom belonged to Syria’s Alawite minority. This trend culminated in General Hafez al-Assad’s rise to power in 1970.With the start of protests in the end of January 2011 which escalated in March, the law has been suspended in late spring.
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad took power after his father’s death in 2000, pledging to liberalize Syria’s politics and economy. The first six months of his presidency featured the release of political prisoners, the return of exiled dissidents, and open discussion of the country’s problems. In February 2001, however, the regime began to reverse this so-called Damascus Spring. Leading reformists were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, while others faced constant surveillance and intimidation by the secret police.
Despite promises that political reforms would be drafted at a major Baath Party conference in 2005, no substantial measures were taken. In October 2005, representatives of all three segments of the opposition—the Islamists, the Kurds, and secular liberals—signed the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change (DDDNC), which called for the country’s leaders to step down and endorsed a broad set of liberal democratic principles. In 2007, al-Assad won another term as president with 97.6 percent of the vote.  Independent candidates, who are heavily vetted and closely allied with the regime, are permitted to contest about a third of the People’s Council seats, meaning two-thirds are reserved for the NPF the coalition supporting the regime.

Why the population is revolting?
  • Regime officials and their families benefit from a range of illicit economic activities. Syria is slowly opening itself economically by removing heavy tariffs and eliminating subsidies, but these limited reforms benefit a small minority at the expense of average citizens. 
  • Corruption is widespread, and bribery is often necessary to navigate the bureaucracy. Syria was ranked 127 out of 178 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. Those arrested on corruption charges rarely face serious punishment. 
  • The regional instability plays an important role in limiting the development of democratic institutions and Syrian human rights and opposition leaders criticized the international community for ignoring internal oppression in Syria in order to pursue regional objectives.
  • Freedom of expression is heavily restricted. Vaguely worded articles of the penal code, the Emergency Law, and a 2001 Publications Law criminalize the publication of material that harms national unity, tarnishes the image of the state, or threatens the “goals of the revolution.” Many journalists, writers, and intellectuals have been arrested under these laws. Apart from a handful of radio stations with non-news formats, all broadcast media are state owned. However, satellite dishes are common, giving most Syrians access to foreign broadcasts. More than a dozen privately owned newspapers and magazines have sprouted up in recent years, and criticism of government policy is tolerated, provided it is nuanced and does not criticize the president. The 2001 press law permits the authorities to arbitrarily deny or revoke publishing licenses and compels private print outlets to submit all material to government censors. It also imposes punishment on reporters who do not reveal their sources in response to government requests. Since the Kurdish protests of 2004, the government has cracked down on journalists calling for the expansion of Kurdish or regional rights.
  • Syrians access the internet only through state-run servers, which block more than 160 sites associated with the opposition, Kurdish politics, Islamic organizations, human rights, and certain foreign news services, particularly those in Lebanon. Social-networking and video-sharing websites such as Facebook and YouTube are also blocked. E-mail correspondence is reportedly monitored by intelligence agencies, which often require internet cafe owners to monitor customers.Academic freedom is heavily restricted. Freedom of assembly is closely circumscribed. Public demonstrations are illegal without official permission, which is typically granted only to pro-government groups. Freedom of association is severely restricted. All nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must register with the government, which generally denies registration to reformist or human rights groups. In 2010,
  • Professional syndicates are controlled by the Baath Party, and all labor unions must belong to the General Federation of Trade Unions, a nominally independent grouping that the government uses to control union activity. Strikes in non-agricultural sectors are legal, but they rarely occur.
  • While the lower courts operate with some independence and generally safeguard defendants’ rights, politically sensitive cases are usually tried by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), an exceptional tribunal established under emergency law that denies the right to appeal, limits access to legal counsel, tries many cases behind closed doors, and routinely accepts confessions obtained through torture.
  • The security agencies, which operate independently of the judiciary, routinely extract confessions by torturing suspects and detaining their family members. The state of emergency in force since 1963 gives security agencies virtually unlimited authority to arrest suspects and hold them incommunicado for prolonged periods without charge. Many of the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 political prisoners in Syria have never been tried. 
  • Minorities face severe restrictions on cultural and linguistic expression. Syrian Kurds are deprived of citizenship and are unable to obtain passports, identity cards, or birth certificates, which in turn prevents them from owning land, obtaining government employment, and voting. Suspected Kurdish activists are routinely dismissed from schools and public-sector jobs. In 2009, the government made it more difficult to hire non citizens, resulting in the dismissal of many Kurds. Iraqi refugees  face obstacles to employment and owning property. 
  • Gender discrimination. The government provides women with equal access to education, but many discriminatory laws remain in force. A husband may request that the Interior Ministry block his wife from traveling abroad, and women, unlike men, are generally barred from taking their children out of the country without proof of the spouse’s permission. Violence against women is common, particularly in rural areas. The government imposed two-year minimum prison sentences for killings classified as “honor crimes” in 2009; previously there had been a maximum one-year sentence. State-run media estimate that there are 40 such killings each year, whereas women’s rights groups put the figure at 200. Personal status law for Muslims is governed by Sharia (Islamic law) and is discriminatory in marriage, divorce, and inheritance matters; church law governs personal status issues for Christians, in some cases barring divorce.

"Why Western powers and the UN are acting in favour of Libyan insurgents and are not for Syrian ones?"
  •  Libya, , is a dwarf compared with Syria, which has 22 million inhabitants, borders directly with key countries such as Iraq, Turkey and Israel, with whom it is still at war . Syria is a strategic partner for Russia and became an ally of Tehran in the Middle East . Intervene heavily in Syria will mean taking incalculable geopolitical and military risks (Syria is the 8th country worldwide for military expenditures with a 6% of the national GDP) . Moving to Syria will mean to open a conflict that might easily explode across the Middle East. And the West can not afford more wars (because of war is not peace missions) and even more onerous than those already underway.
  • Unfortunately Syrians protesters, differently from Libyan rebels don't have a "representative" government , an "army" or a resemblance of it, and a territory under the control where to inject and transport aid, find weapons and defend themselves.
  • Despite the fact that the people participating to the rebellion is systematically disarmed bombed, killed and tortured in prisons, protesters cannot count on the wide international community support also for economic reasons. The country is not rich in natural resources and this explains the fact that the international community is limiting its is intervention just to the adoption of economic sanctions. Western countries, in the middle of a tough global financial crisis, cannot justify to open another front of instability in such a delicate area simply for secondary economic interests.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

19 August - World Humanitarian Day 2011

The United Nations celebrates on this date the World Humanitarian Day. The event was been established with a Resolution of the General Assembly on 11 December 2008 to increase public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international cooperation. The  "People Helping People" campaign chosen for 2011 is about inspiring the spirit of aid work in everyone.

Official website

Friday, 12 August 2011

Dialogue with Islamic courts and compliance of L’Aquila Commitment for sustainable agricultural development essential to address drought in the Horn of Africa

Districts affected by
drought in 2011
On 25 July government and civil society representatives from around the globe gathered in Rome at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s headquarters to discuss emergency relief and funding gaps for the people affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa

According to government representatives, U.N. officials and nonprofit representatives the response was not activated too late to last year’s early warnings

Districts affected by
drought in 2006

While the distribution of food was guaranted in Ethiopia, in Kenya and in northern-central Somalia, a big challenge is in south Somalia, a region mainly controlled by the Islamic courts. In Somalia, a country affected by a constant conflict in the last 20 years; eight regions are in the hands of Al-Shabab, who forbid international organizations from operating with specialized staff coming from abroad. Therefore, by learning from the past it is essential not too repeat the error made with the drought in 2006 when the international community refused the dialogue with the Islamic courts. it is time to start a dialogue with Al-Shabab as it controls eight regions in central-southern Somalia.

Official Map Horn of Africa
 United Nations

Another issue of concern is the fact that the donor countries just respected only the 22 % of the pledges made for agriculture, for food security through the the L’Aquila commitment for sustainable agricultural development in 2009.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

UN WOMEN launched report on the status of women around the world

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The creation of UN Women is part of the UN reform agenda, rationalizing resources and mandates for greater impact.

UN Women aims at:
  • Support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms.
  • Help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.
  • hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

2008/2009 edition of the Report

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

9 August 2011 - International Day of the World's Indigenous People

In 1994, the UN General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August every year during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (Resolution 49/214 of 23 December). The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The UN General Assembly had proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World's Indigenous People, and the same year, the Assembly proclaimed the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, starting on 10 December 1994 (Resolution 48/163). The goal of the First Decade was to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

In 2004, the UN General Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples through Resolution 59/174. The goal of the Second Decade is to further the "strengthening of international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development, by means of action-oriented programs and specific projects, increase technical assistance, and relevant standard-setting activities".

UN Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues
The theme of the 17th commemoration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples will focus on "Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future.".
The event is organized by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues DSPD/DESA, the United Nations Department of Public Information, and the NGO Committee on the Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Below you can see the video Kalimantan's Craft; Harmony of Culture and Nature  which will be screen on 9th July 2011 at the ECOSOC Chamber of the North Lawn Building (NLB) of UN Headquarters in New York

More info:
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Cultural survival